Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Regarding Nathan

He is my only son, my third child, my closing act of motherhood.

When Nathan arrived Nadalene was 5 and Angelique was 7.  Oh my God, how much we loved this little boy who arrived and set the house aglow with his smiles and big brown eyes.

Wahid was over the moon, a son, a son at last.  He called him cool dude.  In fact, he is a very cool dude.

Of course, eventually as boys will do, he grew and grew and now today, he is 25.  I really can’t understand this because the time has rushed by so fast that my head spins when I think of it.

I am in wonder on both how clear my memories of Nathan are (as though his life has happened over months rather than years) and how much my life has changed since we first brought him home.  No matter how things evolve, there is always joy.  Nathan is one of my three greatest joys.

The past is still here with me right now.  I haven’t forgotten much of what it felt like back then when Nathan was just a little boy or the many things we said to each other.

Its okay that I’m crying right now isn’t it?  After all, my baby is now a man.

I can’t share all my memories of Nathan with you, because some of those memories are just ours and also, there are just too many to recall here.

When Nathan was a baby he was crazy about two things; cars and cookies.  Angelique and Nadalene got the biggest kick out of him when we would drive in a car because his head would spin off his shoulders in all directions yelling car car car car car (you might want to thank me here for only putting in five cars).  Of course like many small children, when he saw a truck it was a #u##.

Nathan never walked till 13 months and that is because Wahid said that we loved him so much that his feet never got a chance to touch the ground.  Nadalene do you remember walking him around the living room and I told you that you were the only one who could get him to sleep.  Imagine this tiny little girl carrying a baby almost the same size as her around and around and around and making a shushing sound to anyone in the vicinity.

Nathan talked very early and cooed all the time.  Of course he had his own private coach in Angelique.  Angelique would talk to Nathan while he was on the floor, in his walker, in his jolly jumper, or sitting beside her on the couch.  Angelique has an amazing calm that Nathan would just look up at her and repeat everything she said, only it always sounded like a coo.

Angelique always let Nathan crawl into bed with her and Nadalene.  That was the place he liked to sleep the best.

Every Saturday morning Nathan and I would go and rent a video game, get some hockey cards, and a new comic book.  Nathan loved to collect things.  We would whisper to each other that this was our date.  He would wake me up and say “Mommy is it time to go yet.”  ‘We have to wait till 8:00 Nathan, that will be pretty soon.’

8:00 on the nose we would leave the house and Nathan would open my door and say “After you Madam.”  ‘Thank you Monsieur.’  “This is our date right Mom.”  ‘It sure is.’  “Are you having fun Mom?”  ‘I sure am Nathan.’  “After you Madam.”  ‘Thanks.’

Nathan loved to play outside with his best friend Ryan.  They would jump out of trees on any other passing child.  They would ride their bikes around the block dressed as Vikings from head to toe with big Viking swords in their hands.  I thought it was so cute.  Nadalene thought they were terrorizing the neighbourhood.  Angelique held a position somewhere in the middle.  Wahid said that is what boys do.  So, the parents let the boys continue to do it.

Nathan would always collect bugs and I remember one summer when he was outside and I would say things to him like blue blue God loves you, red red pee the bed, pink pink you stink.  Nathan came to tell me that he and Ryan had one too.  Pink pink smell my dink.  See what happens when you teach two six year old boys how to rhyme.

Nathan played premier soccer for 15 years and at a soccer tournament in Saskatchewan he scored the winning goal for the tournament in double overtime.  My goodness, Wahid still remembers this and still gets excited over it.  Right cool dude?

As a man, Nathan is an amazing individual.  He has helped me so much with so many things.

Nathan has been student teaching a Grade 5 class at Frontenac School.  Isn’t that funny, I went to Frontenac in Grade 5.  His class had a party for him on his last day and he got t-shirts and a hat and movie and lots of cards.  As sure as sunbeams dance in dust filled corners I know that any child Nathan teaches will be a very lucky child indeed.

He is my only son, my third child, my closing act of motherhood.  Nathan thank you for the privilege.

Happy Birthday Nathan.  Love Mom, Dad, Angelique, Nadalene and Josephine.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

D Is For

Don (son-in-law, Angelique’s husband)
Daisy (mother and niece)
Dwain (brother and nephew)
Dane (nephew)
Darlene (friend who died too soon)

Dates (matrimonial slice)
Dragon (spits fire – so can I)
Daisy (pretty flower see mother and niece)
Daughters (Angelique and Nadalene)
Doctors (not God)

Disneyworld (honeymoon)
Disco (I will survive)
Dinner (family gathering, grace)
Dream (for my children)
Dance (Wahid and I the first time we met)

December (Angelique’s birthday)
Dark (alone)
Dwell (think of the what-ifs)
Daily (pills)
Downer (me and how people feel after being with me)

Discipline (not good at it when applied to self)
Daft (no clue)
Devotion (eternally for my family)
Doubt (how long I have)
Death of a thousand cuts (slow and painful; cancer)

Friday, 25 April 2008

When Inside A Fairytale

Now you are all going to get to see how really cuckoo I am.  Yesterday at a grad party for my nephew Anders (Paramedic – I am very proud), Josephine got scared of my sister Suzie.  Josephine was clutching on to me and really looked scared so I said “Suzie, stop looking at her.”  Not actually brilliant but I wanted to protect her, not from Suzie (who has protected me), but from being scared.

Since, I cannot be with Josephine always and cannot keep telling people not to look at her; I want to give her a little bit of whimsy and stardust and even a few instructions in case she ever finds herself a little afraid while inside a fairytale.

Instructions by Neil Gaiman:

Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never

saw before.

Say "please" before you open the latch,

go through,

walk down the path.

A red metal imp hangs from the green-painted

front door,

as a knocker,

do not touch it; it will bite your fingers.

Walk through the house.  Take nothing.  Eat


However, if any creature tells you that it hungers,

feed it.

If it tells you that it is dirty,

clean it.

If it cries to you that it hurts,

if you can,

ease its pain.

From the back garden you will be able to see the

wild wood.

The deep well you walk past leads to Winter's


there is another land at the bottom of it.

If you turn around here,

you can walk back, safely;

you will lose no face.  I will think no less of you.

Once through the garden you will be in the


The trees are old.  Eyes peer from the under-


Beneath a twisted oak sits an old woman.  She

may ask for something;

give it to her.  She

will point the way to the castle.

Inside it are three princesses.

Do not trust the youngest.  Walk on.

In the clearing beyond the castle the twelve

months sit about a fire,

warming their feet, exchanging tales.

They may do favors for you, if you are polite.

You may pick strawberries in December's frost.

Trust the wolves, but do not tell them where

you are going.

The river can be crossed by the ferry.  The ferry-

man will take you.

(The answer to his question is this:

If he hands the oar to his passenger, he will be free to

leave the boat.

Only tell him this from a safe distance.)

If an eagle gives you a feather, keep it safe.

Remember: that giants sleep too soundly; that

witches are often betrayed by their appetites;

dragons have one soft spot, somewhere, always;

hearts can be well-hidden,

and you betray them with your tongue.

Do not be jealous of your sister.

Know that diamonds and roses

are as uncomfortable when they tumble from

one's lips as toads and frogs:

colder, too, and sharper, and they cut.

Remember your name.

Do not lose hope — what you seek will be found.

Trust ghosts.  Trust those that you have helped

to help you in their turn.

Trust dreams.

Trust your heart, and trust your story.

When you come back, return the way you came.

Favors will be returned, debts will be repaid.

Do not forget your manners.

Do not look back.

Ride the wise eagle (you shall not fall).

Ride the silver fish (you will not drown).

Ride the grey wolf (hold tightly to his fur).

There is a worm at the heart of the tower; that is

why it will not stand.

When you reach the little house, the place your

journey started,

you will recognize it, although it will seem

much smaller than you remember.

Walk up the path, and through the garden gate

you never saw before but once.

And then go home.  Or make a home.

And rest.

I think the woman in the picture (by Jeanie Tomanek) kinda looks like me, so you can always pretend and maybe even really I will be inside of the same fairytale as you.  Just remember you will never be alone, I will always be with you.

Angelique, Nadalene, Nathan, and Josephine, have yourselves a magical life.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

My Mind's Eye Said

Look into my eyes and hear what they said. . . . . .

Flashbacks From the Month of April

April 19, 2001

*Today is an awesome day; Nathan just left the house with his girlfriend Raquel to attend their Grade 12 graduation.

*Things I have done so far this year that make me proud of myself and happy to be alive.
  • Wahid and I got Nathan to this point in his life.  I am very proud of myself for raising such a wonderful son.
  • I am proud of my involvement in raising money for lupus research.
  • I am happy to be alive so that I can help my children with anything they need from me.  I take pleasure in my children.
  • Actually, Angelique, Nadalene, and Nathan fulfill both of the categories of being proud of myself and happy to be alive.  Because I’m proud of myself for doing a good job in raising my children and I’m happy to be alive so that I can spend a lot of time with them.
  • I am happy to be alive because Nadalene and I went to Barney Gargles for fish and chips.  Coming home from Selkirk we drove in a blizzard and it felt like we were in outer space.  I was also happy to be alive to see the biggest snowflakes I have ever seen in my life.

April 7, 2005

*My body and I are on good terms, I just don’t do what I know my body needs.  Exercise and diet.  I have the want just not the will.

April 24, 2005

*Colette is 48 years old today, and honestly, she never changes.

April 10, 2006

*New years don’t necessarily bring great things.  I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer on February 8, 2006.  At this point I still don’t know what that really means for me.  My life has changed forever.  I am currently in treatment and have a positive outlook.  Today I am in St. Boniface having a blood transfusion.  Thank you to all the people who are evolved who donate blood.

April 17, 2006

*Now that I have cancer I accept all aspects of my personality, background, and physical appearance.  There is nothing I do not accept about myself.  I love all of myself.

April 18, 2006

*Friends and family would say the driving force of my life is my family; and they would be right.  I want the driving force of my life to be family, spirituality, and peaceful co-existence.

*I want to know that my family is okay and will be a complete unit when I am no longer here with them.  I want them all to be at peace with each other.  To be on a spiritual path with each other.  No hatred.  Only love.  To know they are all loved by me.  Always.

April 19, 2006

*I should stop seeing what I want to see and see what I really see.  Time to get real with your life and the people in it.  Don’t go with the flow.  Mean what you say.  Be honourable.

Flash Forward

Mean what you say.  Be honourable.  It just came to me that the previous two sentences describe the birthday girl.  Happy Birthday Colette.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Birthday Opera

One thing that I always wanted to do was to see an opera.  Guess what, I saw one last night.  La Traviata.

Nadalene bought me tickets for the opera for my birthday.  It was wonderful, magnificent, intense, and divine.  The set was brilliant.  The opera singers, I don’t even know what you would call them, but their voices were angelic.

I am at the end of the evening; I need to waltz many dances back with Nadalene to get to the beginning.

Nadalene looked stunning in a teal sweater dress with a black shawl draped in some kind of stunning fashion.  I looked stunning in black pants and a top with rhinestones (thanks Liz, I don’t know if you knew that you left it at my house or that I was going to wear it, I didn’t either).

The evening started with dinner which was maple chicken and roasted carrots and potatoes.  We both kissed our husbands goodbye and walked out the door.

Just when we reached the opera it started to rain with thunder that shook us in the car.  (Charlton did tell us to bring the umbrella.)  Of course, we didn’t have an umbrella so we had to run for it.  My run is a little slower than a snails pace so needless to say we got wet.  It was wonderful.

We got there and ordered our drinks for the intermission.  A fancy little trick that allows you to pre-order so that you don’t have to wait in the line-up.  I learnt this at my savvy daughters’ knees.

I get to our seat which was marvelous.  We were in the 19th row on the main floor, almost dead center.  The view was glorious.

Before the opera started, I was sitting in my chair and Nadalene had stepped away.  I saw her come back and in front of her were an elderly man and woman.  I watched for approximately 10 minutes while Nadalene in her beautiful dress was trying to adjust the man’s walker so that he could sit and then I saw her get it to the side and the man was holding on to both her hands while she tried to help him in his seat.  All this time there were about 15 people behind her waiting for the man and woman to sit.  I was really surprised to see that no one else helped them.

Okay back to the opera.

La Traviata is about a courtesan (Violetta) who allows herself to fall in love with one of her patrons.  Violetta moves to the country with her young man, after three months his father appears and tells her that if she really loves his son, she will give him up, because after all he is from a good home and she is a courtesan.  She gives him up.  He disappears and she ends up very ill and is dying.  He and his father come back on the scene the day she dies to tell her that the father was mistaken and she and his son should be together.  She dies in her lover’s arms.

Favourite quotes from the opera (they have it in subtitles above the stage).

While they were dancing “Life without pleasure is madness.”

While she was dying “The roses on my cheeks have faded."

Thanks for the birthday opera Nadalene.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

C Is For

Charlton (son-in-law, Nadalene’s husband)
Camille (sister and grandfather)
Colette (sister and firecracker)
Corinna (niece)
Curtis (nephew)

Cantaloupe (always rotten by time I get to it)
Camel (with one hump or two – also name I call Camille)
Cancer (trying to kill me)
Camera (memory catcher)
Cavity (what I had fixed but for some reason is still killing me)

Canada (best country in the world)
Caribbean (where Trinidad is)
Castle (my home)
California (Suzie, Gerry, Moe and I were terrified of Hell's Angels)
Canyon (Grand, where Mom was having a shit fit because Dad wanted her to look down) 

Calendar (appointment tracker)
Century (I lived from one century to another) 
Charity (begins at home, family more important than anyone else)
Camping (teen years traveling Canada and the U.S. with family)
Catch-22 (conflicting rules usually in serious times, also a great book)

Crawl (Josephine does it Quasimodo style)
Cry (more in the past two years than ever, indulge it feels good)
Cautious (treading the waters of life)
Come to grips (you face up to a problem or issue and deal with it)
Courage (face danger or pain without showing excessive fear – my people) 

Friday, 18 April 2008

Page 123

Come share something that is in your life with me.

1.  Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).

2.  Name the book.

3.  Open the book to page 123.

4.  Find the fifth sentence.

5.  Post the next three sentences on my comment space at the end of this blog.

A Course In Miracles by Helen Schucman (birthday gift from Elizabeth)

If it is not relinquished entirely it is not relinquished at all.  Fear and love make or create, depending on whether the ego or the Holy Spirit begets or inspires them, but they will return to the mind of the thinker and they will affect his total perception.  That includes his concept of God, of His creations and of his own.

Wow, this is kind of a weird exercise.  I like it.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Godness Masquerading As Goodness

When I look at the catastrophe that is the Bush administration, I think of many things.  For my personal situation it is the veto on stem cell research.  For the world situation it is the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the disgrace of Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, and the erosion of civil liberties which will have long-lasting effects.  He and his administration have destroyed the U.S. economy.

I really think that President Bush sums it up best.  “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful   . . .   They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”  George W. Bush

Truth is one of the first casualties of war, followed closely by secrecy as its first lieutenant.  When this war in Iraq had been instigated by Bush followed by his lap dog Harper in Afghanistan, my faith completely collapsed.

Canada's role in the invasion of Afghanistan, as an active combatant, has produced the largest number of fatal casualties for any single Canadian military mission since the Korean War.  82 Canadians have died in Afghanistan and numerous Canadians have been wounded.  The U.S. has lost over 4,000 American soldiers and no one knows how many wounded since their invasion of Iraq.  1,197,469 is the estimated death toll of Iraqi citizens, and I can’t even imagine how many wounded.

I have heard that Canada has not sacrificed enough.  We are considered puppets and only 82 of our young soldiers have died.  Well for me, one Canadian dying is one too many.  One Canadian dying may as well be 4,000 dying.  I support our people.  I do not support the war.

Please don’t ignore the fact that the average age of these soldiers is 19 years old.

I cannot stand that we (Canada) have soldiers in Afghanistan.  I cannot stand that we have a Prime Minister that seems to follow President Bush around like a lap dog.  Prime Minister Harper you are way too big to be sitting on that man’s lap.

The American people need a new president and November 4, 2008 cannot come fast enough.  Seven months is too long for these soldiers in these war zones to wait for a new President.  I love the states and more than that I love the American people.  I support their soldiers and I want them back home with their families.

In Canada there will not be an election until October 19, 2009 and than again, Harper may be re-elected.  I for one hope not.  Another year and a half is too long for our soldiers to be in combat.  I love Canada and more than that I love the Canadian people.  I support our soldiers and I want them back home with their families.

“And the dead can’t talk.  So the words about noble deaths and sacred blood and honor and such are all put into dead lips by grave robbers and fakes who have no right to speak for the dead.”  ‘Johnny Got His Gun’ by Dalton Trumbo.

“Excuse me, monsieur, but hereabouts we are plagued by godness masquerading as goodness  . . . .   And every so often our deep spiritualism leads us to massacre one another like wild beasts.  Excuse me, but some of us aren’t falling for it, some of us are trying to break free into the real.”  ‘The Ground Beneath Her Feet’ by Salmon Rushdie.

Wars and conflicts could be resolved if all the weapons that shoot bullets could be replaced with weapons that shoot flowers.  Maybe then all we would have to do is shoot flowers at each other all day long and before you know it, the opposing team may smell our flowers and ask how they too can make them grow.  And before we know it we could have dialogue.  They could give us some of their seeds and we could give them some of our seeds and once again, before you know it we could have understanding.

No more bullets please, only flowers.  Send our boys of all ages home.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008


If I was a pig and had a curly tail and it got twisted tighter with every thoughtless thing said to me over the past two years and then the thoughtless things stopped being said.  My curly pig’s tail would spin off and shoot me very close to the left hand corner of the big dipper.

Common things people with cancer have heard and should never have to hear again.  If I have personally heard it or something like it I will place a * beside it.

*You never know.  I could get hit by a bus tomorrow.  (Then why don’t you?)

*You’ll be fine.  (Oh really, that is not what the expert on my cancer says.)

*Think positive.  (I’m positive I have cancer and I’m positive that being positive won’t change it.)

*Your chemo is finished, so you’re fine now right?  (No.)

*What is your prognosis?  (Same as yours, we are both going to die.)

My grandma, sister, aunt, etc. died of that.  (So really i'm wasting my time doing chemo, radiation and generally having any hope.)

*My grandma, sister, aunt, etc. beat that by doing such and such.  (Okay from now on I will cut up the pickles before I bake them in the pickle pie.)

*If anyone can beat it, you can.  (Is that because I can see through your clothes.)

*If it’s not your time, it’s not your time.  (But what if it is?)

*Life is not fair.  (Thanks for the heads up.)

*Every cloud has a silver lining.  (Go fuck yourself.)

*At least you will lose weight.  (Who says I want too?)

Lance can do it and so can you.  (Only if I wear a yellow bracelet.)

*Don’t worry.  (Like that is a possibility.)

*How do you know if your treatment is working?  (You will read about me in the paper if it doesn’t.)

*Don’t worry your hair will grow back.  (Thanks Albert.)

*You don’t look like you have cancer.  (Maybe if I cut my body open and you know what it is you are looking for, maybe then I will look like I have cancer.)

The God things and to me personally these are the most offensive.  I wonder if they came from this passage from Romans 6:23.  "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus."

What is Jesus teaching you in all this?  (Angie’s personal nemesis.)

It could be God’s way of teaching you to look closer at your life.  (Not my God.)

*God won’t give you more than you can handle.  (That is darn decent of him.)

*It's God's Will or its less self-righteous cousin, everything happens for a reason.  (I would be really interested to hear what exactly you think the reason is.  After hearing that, I would also be really interested in hitting you over the head with a spade.)

Now that we have come to the end of my little rant, I couldn’t leave without stating my all time favorites that should not be said to a person with cancer.

*You will be fine, you have a great attitude.  (I had a great attitude when I got cancer or does that sort of thing only work in reverse.)

*If you really want to live you will.  (I have many friends who really wanted to live, was their really just not a triple-dipple really.)

*Just never give up when people give up they die.  (I don’t think it is when they gave up they died, I think it is when their bodies shut down that they died.  Although I should recheck that, after all you probably know better.)

*Keep that positive attitude.  (Would you say keep a positive attitude to someone who is floating on the icy water near an iceberg that was just hit by the Titanic?)

I understand that it is very hard to know what is the right thing to say to someone with cancer.  I get it.  Having said that, I want you to know that if you pretend that it doesn’t exist and therefore you say nothing, that is even worse.

I guess what I want you to get is that many times it isn’t what you say it is your sincerity.  Sometimes there just aren’t words.  Sometimes there is just compassion.

Monday, 14 April 2008

B Is For

Ben (my nephew, see brave)
Brianne (my great-niece)
Brett (my great-nephew)
Barons (Auntie Gloria and Uncle Louie)
Bush Jr. (worst President in the history of the U.S.)

Banana (grows upward to the sun, potassium)
Baboon (large monkey; me when I go ape shit)
Baby (my Josephine)
Books (helped shape my psyche)
Brothers (Harry, Dwain, Gerry, and Joey)

Beach (Angelique and Don’s property at Buffalo Point)
Breast (where my cancer started)
Buenintento (street Wahid grew up on)
Butterfly (Compassionate Friends symbol for eternal life)
Bench (we always sit on them at St. Vital Park)

Birthday (celebrate a person’s life)
Between (in the middle of the separation of two worlds)
Breakfast (pancakes or eggs and bacon and tomatoes on Sunday)
Beliveau (Angelique, Nadalene, Nathan and I went for junior high)
Bones (206 bones in an adult body, so far 1 with cancer)

Bully (emotionally weak hurting the physically weak)
Buddhism (philosophy/religion teaching acceptance)
Brave (face danger despite your fear)
Belief (unshakable faith in God)
Back to the Wall (a difficult situation with very little room to maneuver)

Friday, 11 April 2008

Even My Hare Hurts

I am sitting here with a neck roll around my neck trying to hold up my head.  I am hoping to feel better but that does not seem like it will happen.

The whole left side of my face hurts, from the top of my hair to the bottom of my neck.

I am pretty sure that my tooth has abscessed.  It is the upper molar beside the tooth that was pulled.  There is a little hole in it at the top and I think there is an exposed nerve.  I also think that maybe when the oral surgeon took out my other tooth he may have broken off a piece of this one too.

Of course I don’t know this for sure since my dentist is away until Tuesday,  but what I do know is that I have a couple of teeth chards that broke and are coming out of the front of my gums.  I keep feeling them with my tongue; one has even broken the skin.  I wonder if they will pull it out with tweezers.

Since I am complaining, I may-as-well carry on.  When I got the results back from my bone scan they let me know that I have severe arthritis in all of my joints.  I kid you not.  What are really sore right now are my knees and my shoulders.  As a matter of fact, I had a very hard time getting out of bed this morning.  I never realized how much you need your shoulders to push yourself up.  Isn’t it nice to learn something new every day?

I have taken enough pills to sink a battle ship and since nothing is working I think I will go and take a few more.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Dear Belly

When I was 46 years-old I wrote a letter to my belly.  The intent of the letter was to accept and love all of myself.

Flashback – 2002

I think I avoid tons of things by saying I’m not interested.  For a person who doesn’t give a shit about what people think about her ‘internal’ sure seems to care a lot about what people think of her ‘external’ weight.

This is so obvious because I value my ‘internal,’ knowing I’ve really got it together that I don’t care what anyone would say about me, because I really like who I am.  Where I care what they think of the ‘external’ because I am not confident in my body shape at all.

This is really crap and I need to love my body how ever it is, because it is the only body I have.  My challenge to myself is not to let my own body image intimidate me into not doing the things I want to do.  I must learn to love my body and to treat it right.

I would rate my body esteem a 3.  I have taken all of my culture’s body messages to heart.  I need to stop buying into society’s attitude and start buying in to self-acceptance.

Dear Belly:

I have been unjust to you as long as I can remember.  Certainly ever since I was a teen and noticed that you were round while my friends’ belly’s seemed so flat.  And flat seemed to be the ideal.

I was about 13 years-old when I started feeling like this and I am 46 years old now.  This feeling, for 33 years must be my longest relationship with a negative feeling and I am more than ready to let it go.

You are important to me and I have abused you with food and a real lack of exercise because I despised you, and by despising you, I have despised me.  I want to now, and for at least the next 33 years, love you.  And in loving you, I will love and accept me.

You make sure to digest my food and you pushed my stomach up when I needed a comfort spot to let my three beautiful children grow in.  Without you, they wouldn’t have had a place to reside for the nine months that it took for their own little belly’s to grow, among other things their ears, arms, legs, etc.

I truly am going to commit to you to treat you better and to love you how ever round or flat you may be.

Love Renee xoxoxo


Love yourself on your terms.  Don’t waste you life by focusing on one thing you don’t like about yourself.  Remember there are probably at least a trillion things wonderful about you.  Don’t berate yourself for one thing.

I am glad to say that after writing that letter, I did and do love all of myself.  And, if I don’t want to do something it is certainly not because of my dear belly.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Free the Panchen Lama ---- Free Tibet

I think it is important to have a world view.  It is important to care about the world around us, to care about the people around us.  We are fortunate to live in Canada where we can add our voice against countries that are blatantly discarding human rights, especially at a time like this where the world is uniting in protest regarding the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

The Dalai Lama is considered to be the temporal ruler of Buddhism.  He is the spiritual and religious leader of the Tibetan government in exile.  Just as Gandhi was a symbol of freedom from British rule for India, so is the Dalai Lama a symbol of freedom from China’s rule of Tibet.

In 1989, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on the basis of his unswerving commitment to peaceful protest against the Chinese occupation of Tibet.  He is highly regarded as a result and has been received by government leaders throughout the world.  In 2006 he was one of only four people to ever receive an honorary Canadian citizenship.

In Tibet, displaying photos of the Dalai Lama is illegal.  Many Tibetans remove his photo but display the empty picture frame as a symbolic representation of his image.  This simple act is a powerful expression of noncompliance with Chinese rule in Tibet.

Who I really want to talk about today though is the Panchen Lama.  The than 6-year old boy whose picture is at the beginning of my post.

The Panchen Lama is considered the spiritual head of Buddhism.  The current Dalai Lama named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama on May 14, 1995, but the government of the People's Republic of China quickly named another child.  The Panchen Lama bears part of the responsibility for finding the incarnation of the Dalai Lama and vice versa.

In May 1995, Chinese occupying forces in Tibet abducted the six year-old Panchen Lama from his home in Tibet.  The whereabouts and welfare of the Panchen Lama are still unknown more than 12 years since he was abducted by the Chinese authorities.  It is believed that he and his family are imprisoned, while Beijing contends that they are living under a secret identity for protection and privacy.  Chinese authorities state that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima has been taken into protective custody, but there is no reference to what, or whom he must be protected from.  Many people believe that, with no evidence supporting his continued existence, he has been imprisoned or worse.  This lack of credible evidence regarding his whereabouts has led some concerned buddhists to view his absence as a forced disappearance.

His abduction is a crime not only against an innocent child, but against the Tibetan nation and its way of life.

Despite additional calls from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UK through the EU-China and the UK-China Human Rights Dialogues, China has defied numerous calls on the case.  The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has requested to "allow an independent expert to visit and confirm the well-being of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima whilst respecting his right to privacy, and that of his parents".  China maintains that "the so-called Panchen Lama was a normal child, leading a healthy and happy life."

Tibet is situated between the two ancient civilizations of central China and India, but the tangled mountain ranges of the Tibetan Plateau and the towering Himalayas serve to distance it from both.  Tibetan history is characterized by a special dedication to the Buddhist religion.  Tibet is nicknamed "the roof of the world" or "the land of snows".

Our government has called upon China to fully respect human rights and peaceful protest.  To succeed in putting real pressure on China we need to join the world community in a call for the freedom of the Panchen Lama.  Hopefully here and now they can release him and his family.  Freeing Tibet will not happen in my lifetime, but I hope that by using our democratic right to protest and speak out it will let our government know that China's policy against Tibet is not what we the people want.

This is a chance for all of us to be bigger than ourselves.  To join with the world by showing our outrage, by joining the ranks of great men who went before us, such as; Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr.,  and the Dalai Lama to help free a repressed people.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Long Tail In A World Of Short Tails

Why is a person’s physical appearance more important than the content of that person’s character?  When did being skinny mean you achieve nirvana?  Since when was it okay to point or whisper about someone different from you?  Why are women of a certain age invisible in our society, that is unless they are fat, bald, or don’t appear well?


Jill and I went to see the movie Hairspray, she was totally bald and I had some hair.  I had just had chemo the day before and Jill had radiation to her brain so we were both pretty shaky.  Jill had asked me to go to the movie; she had been feeling badly for so long that I was not going to deny her.  (To this day, I still feel very sick just seeing an advertisement for the movie Hairspray.  I can’t believe that I started gagging just typing out the word.)    Twice going into the movie and once coming out, people actually pointed at us like we had the plague.  In one case, we were pointed out to the children “that we must have cancer”.

The first week I found out I had cancer, someone (don’t ask, I will not tell) said to me “At least you will know what it is like to be thin.”  Chemotherapy is NOT a weight loss plan.  Turns out, they give you steroids that make you hungry all the time.  And, you feel like complete shit and don’t even have enough energy to walk up the stairs, much less to exercise.  Not to mention that you are forced into menopause.  Just for your information, women receiving breast cancer treatments usually gain weight from medication.

In the hospital I was once asked if my 81 year old mother was my sister.  Last week in the doctor’s office I was also told I could bring my daughter into the office.  That would have been fine if one of my daughters was with me, it was my sister Shelly.

I cannot wear a bra.  You can only imagine what this must look like.  I use to think when I saw a woman without a bra “For pete’s sake, put on a bra at the very least.”  Now I don’t make judgments.

Not being recognized by people I know because my hair is to my scalp and it is white.  Being asked “What happened to your hair?”  Well, you know I have cancer.  “Yes, but your hair has changed so much.”  Are you for real?

As far as physical beauty goes, don’t get me wrong.  I understand what it is.  I too, was young and beautiful once.  My children are all physically beautiful. I enjoy looking at them, but more importantly I enjoy being with them.  But I know and they know that physical beauty is pure genetics.  You were born with that, now the main thing is what do you bring to the table?  What is your substance?  I am over the moon to say that my children are even more beautiful inside than their physical appearance.

Appearance is about a lot of things.  It’s about vanity and feeling ugly, it’s about the stigma of being sick and that being obvious to the world.  It’s about being an imposter in the mirror, it is complicated.  I take ownership of the fact that some of that is really superficial shit, but it’s real and it’s emotional.

So, when you see someone whose tail is longer than yours, please don’t stare.  Instead of being appalled, be compassionate.

Monday, 7 April 2008

A Is For

Angelique (my first true love)
Antoinette (my niece Toni)
Anders (my nephew)
Annette (my niece)
Alexandra (my niece Alex)

Apple (keeps the doctor away)
Aardvark (earth pig)
Actor (many people in a public situation)
Adventure (a way to look at life)
Angel (goodness – see my first true love)

Aberdeen (city in Scotland where my Mom is from)
Alberta (where my brother Gerry lives)
Antarctica (icy continent being affected by global warming)
Australia (continent where my niece Natasha lives)
Amsterdam (Nadalene and Liz went to the Anne Frank house)

April (Nathan’s birthday)
Autumn (my great-niece’s name and my favourite season)
August (my niece Daisy’s birthday)
a.m. (morning when I prefer all my doctor appointments)
Afternoon (the wonderful time family comes home)

Afraid (scared or frightened, the what-ifs)
Ajar (slightly less closed, giving you a peek)
Angry (mad at people my age who get to live while I don’t)
Around (family near or close to me)
Awake (look, listen, and speak up)

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Mad Hatter's Tea Parties

When the world is looming and the pressure is on, when thumb screws are being turned and you have a gun pointed in your direction, what makes you go beyond mere survival?  What makes you thrive?

I have been asking myself these questions for awhile now.  I still don’t know the answers.

As far as surviving goes, it was essential for me to get through my treatments.  It let me survive and that is what I wanted most, but I also realized that I wanted more than to be just a carcass occupying space.

I want to thrive.  I want to be what I have always wanted to be.  I am determined to flourish in spite of my cancer.  I want to have days filled with diamond possibilities and golden opportunities.

Today I saw a St. Bernard dog as big as a small bear.  It was an adventure and I am going to have more adventures every day.

I am going to recite Mad Hatter poetry ‘Twinkle twinkle little bat,’ have Mad Hatter tea parties all of the time even if they are just with me.  I will determine whether I am the Mad Hatter, Alice, the March Hare, or the Dormouse.

I am going to spend more time with people under the age of 6 and over the age of 70.

I am going to believe in impossible things and dream more while I am awake.

I am going to do fewer things like the Queen of Hearts such as try to find out how to chop off the Cheshire cat’s head, since he is only a floating head.  I am not going to waste my life energy on imaginary cat’s heads.

I am going to do more things like the Queen of Hearts and play hedgehog croquet with flamingo mallets.  Here Josephine it is your turn. Just place the flamingo upside down, grab hold of his legs and swing.  And if you need help, Grandma will push the hedgehog under the croquet hoop.

“There is no use trying,” said Alice “one can't believe impossible things.”  “I dare say you haven't had much practice,” said the Queen “when I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day, why sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”  (Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland)

The following is a meaningful poem by Dawna Markova.

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days.
To allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible.
To loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance, to live, so that which came to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which came to me as blossom goes on as fruit.

I will have Mad Hatter tea parties, play hedgehog croquet, see St. Bernard Dogs as big as small bears; and just maybe, if I am lucky, I will thrive along the way.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Give A Dog A Bone

Went to see my oncologist to find out the results from my Bone Scan and C.T. Scan.

For someone like me, with Stage 4 Inflammatory Breast Cancer, where a cure is not possible, the words “no change” and “stable” are all the bones this dog needs tossed in her direction.

I started the day off at 11 a.m. with pamidronate.  Pamidronate reduces breakdown of the bones and is used to reduce high levels of calcium in the blood associated with malignancy (cancer) and to reduce the breakdown of bone due to metastases of breast cancer.  It is put in my PICC line and I have it given to me over one hour.

This was followed up with my doctor’s appointment which always involves three key players and goes like this.

The three key players in this appointment are me, my nurse, and my oncologist.

I always play the role of a groveling dog begging for a bone.

My nurse, Lori, plays the role of my nurse Lori.  Lori is considered by all of us who have her to be amazing.  Before I met Lori, everyone would say ‘Have you met Lori yet?’  I hadn’t for the first few months, but now that I have, I am her biggest fan.  Who doesn’t want an efficient and compassionate nurse as one of their key players?  Besides being a wonderful human being, what I will love Lori for is what she did for my dear friend Darlene a few months before she died.

My oncologist plays the role of my oncologist.  My oncologist could play the role of an oncologist on any Hollywood movie.  Not only is she brilliant (which is the most important part), she is also absolutely beautiful looking.  She is the one that has the horrendous job of kicking the dog (me) when its down or tossing the dog (me) a bone.

I digress……….

Lori weighs me (220 lbs on a 5 ft frame --- I was supposed to have a heart attack not cancer) and then takes me into an examining room and asks me how I have been feeling and if I have any concerns.  Woof, woof, woof.  I show her the spots on my skin, she gives me a gown to put on, and she tells me the doctor will be right in.  I also get a hug because it was just my birthday.

My doctor comes in and asks how I have been.  Woof.  Woof.  She examines me and tells me to keep an eye on my skin, it is definitely different than the skin cancer on the other side but it still needs to be watched.

I adjust my tail and place my paws in my lap.

My doctor opens my chart and rifles through the papers.

I look at her with big dog-like eyes and make whimpering sounds.  In my head I am wondering if I will get kicked to the side or if she will give a dog a bone.

“The bone scan and C.T. scan show no change.  The cancer is stable.”

The doctor and I leave the room together, and with my bone between my teeth and my tail wagging I walk out the door upright on two legs.